Game Review: Infinite Fleet

2021-08-05

Header art by Elthar Nox

Infinite Fleet is a PC sandbox space action strategy MMORPG currently in development from Pixelmatic, and it has just entered Alpha testing. The game takes place in a procedurally-generated universe where players take on a galactic threat known as The Atrox. You build and customize your fleet, claim territory, build infrastructure, and team up with other players. Aesthetically, the design of the game harkens back to 1980s mech anime such as Robotech and Voltron.  Plus, Internet Spaceships! 

Features Similar to EVE

EVE Online players will find some of the planned features familiar.  Planet colonization and exploration, mining, crafting, PvP, building Titan-like command ships in the end game, etc.  I’ve followed this project through its development starting in 2019 and have found that the folks at Pixelmatic are really working on some unique stuff for this game.  For one, your spaceships can transform into robots.  With each ship, there are a lot of customization options and different modes you could use to do various jobs, so you’ll still have to bust out your spreadsheets to perfect your ship classes.

I got a chance to view a livestream of the Alpha gameplay. Although much polishing needs to be done, the game looks impressive. The player was in control of five ships using projectile ammo, as Atrox ships arrived on grid.  Atrox enemies mainly seem to use beam weapons, which the player’s small class ships switched to at one point.  Some ship classes can also launch fighters.  Once the objective was complete, the video ended.  I asked whether ships/items in the game were permanently destroyed if lost.  The developers are aiming for a lower class of missions and activities where the player wouldn’t permanently lose their stuff, and higher-level missions and activities where the losses would be permanent.

Much Development Left to Do

Although the game is slated for release in Q4 of 2022, it’s still early in development.  Having done extensive Alpha testing, the team is in the middle of switching from using Unity’s Data Oriented Technology Stack (DOTS) to the GameObjects workflow, as ultimately DOTS is still in development and has no compatible networking solution.  For a team that’s aiming to have thousands of players come together and swarms of mechs blowing each other away with minimum lag, this was an unfixable break.  Beta testing should still start in Q1 or Q2 of 2022, which means I can see a 2023 release. 

So, the big question.  Do you still get to feast on baby pubby tears?  What’s the new player experience going to be like? 

On Gaming and Climbing Everest

When George Mallory was asked why he risked his life (almost dying twice before his fatal third attempt) to climb Mount Everest, he said “Because it’s there.” EVE Players who survive have proven that they have a certain mental toughness, a certain amount of intelligence and wit. These players go on to join player groups that function as nation-states consisting of thousands of players. These groups (Corporations, Alliances, Coalitions) become as tight as family, with their own histories, cultures, and vendettas. I think what players are ultimately looking for in online gaming is to get online with a group of friends to have fun.  You can achieve that in EVE, but it takes years of dedicated work.

In the movie Knockaround Guys, Vin Diesel says it takes 500 street fights before you’re a legitimate tough guy. This is the feeling that EVE veterans have. However, there’s such a poor work-to-fun ratio that EVE, as far as player population and profitability goes, has never found the success that other MMOs have. So, the catch is finding a balance between giving players that feeling of empowerment without mentally beating the crap out of them. While I don’t have all the answers, my feeling after getting a look at this game is that Infinite Fleet players won’t feel like they’re trying to climb Everest, but they will still be tired after the hike.      

No Pump and Dump

One feature that may send some of you screaming from the room is that Infinite Fleet’s in-game currency is blockchain, as cryptocurrency games have a track record of being shit.  However, this isn’t the case with Infinite Fleet.  Most MMOs have two or three different types of currency in game.  In EVE Online’s case, this is ISK, which is earned in game through completing agent missions, ratting, selling production items; and PLEX, which is purchased with real world currency.  You can spend ISK on the in-game market, but you can buy PLEX with ISK and still access everything in the New Eden store (so it’s not a straight up cash shop).  Infinite Fleet has INF, which is unique in that even though it’s a cryptocurrency token it works the same as ISK.  INF is not publicly traded on any exchange, so no pump and dump schemes.  You can’t buy INF with real world currency.  You earn it in game, where it can be used in a peer-to-peer market place to buy in game items and trade.  There is also a set amount of INF, so like PLEX, its value can fluctuate over time.

Also keep in mind that Pixelmatic isn’t one of these so-called hot new ground floor companies where a bunch of twentysomethings get super excited about trying to sell you shit.  Pixelmatic has been producing and selling games since 2011, although Infinite Fleet is certainly their most ambitious project to date.  Pixelmatic is a profitable company with sufficient resources and staff to finish this game.  The project wasn’t funded on Kickstarter and dumped into an endless development cycle.  There’s no black market for $1000 ships for a game that doesn’t exist.  I believe this project is straight up and what sandbox MMO enthusiasts have been waiting for.          

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